US approves potential sale of additional F-16 fighters to Bulgaria

US approves sale F16 Bulgaria
USAF F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to 35th Fighter Wing conduct Suppression of Enemy Air Defense training over Misawa Air Base, Japan.

The US State Department approved on Monday a possible foreign military sale to the government of Bulgaria of F-16 C/D Block 70 aircraft and related equipment at an estimated cost of $ 1.673 billion.

The Government of Bulgaria has requested the purchase of four F-16C Block 70 aircraft and four F-16D Block 70 aircraft equipped with modern sensors and a wide range of missiles and bombs.

The State Department said the proposed sale will improve Bulgaria's ability to cope with current and future threats by allowing the Bulgarian Air Force to regularly deploy modern fighter jets in the Black Sea region. The acquisition of these aircraft would provide Bulgaria an interoperable NATO platform and would allow the Bulgarian aviation to operate more frequently together with other regional F-16 operators, promoting common doctrines and operations.

Bulgaria has already procured a first batch of eight F-16 Block 70s in 2020. Sofia's plan is to have a fleet of 16 state-of-the-art fighters to replace the older Bulgarian Air Force MiG-29s. In recent days it was reported that Lockheed Martin will delay delivery of the first batch by 3 years due to Covid, the first F-16 jets are expected to arrive in Bulgaria in 2027.

Pentagon approval came amid persistent speculation that one of the US allies could provide Ukraine with MiG-29 aircraft to fight Russian forces by receiving new fighters as a reward. Bulgaria is among the three NATO allies operating the type along with Poland and Slovakia. However, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby yesterday ruled out a correlation between the approval of this potential sale and the supply of MiG-29 jets to Ukraine.

Written by Darren Bondi
Image: USAF

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